During his farewell speech in August, Telstra CEO Andy Penn mentioned that the cyber threat has never been greater than it is today. He mentioned the deteriorating geopolitical situation and the big change in the way criminals operate in the cyber domain.
One thing is certain, to take advantage of all the advantages of the digital economy, we must be much more vigilant about the deluge of information that we receive and/or to which we have access.
As we see all around us, there are many people, organizations and even governments who are more than willing to (wrongly) use digital media for their own gain, and that includes misinformation, lies, half-truth, scam, hacking, phishing, etc., they are more than happy to use these tools in advertising, politics, ideologies and conspiracies.
For too long we have been used to situations where the truth was the norm, of course all of the above wrongdoing was also present, but on a much smaller scale. In general, we could trust our politicians, business leaders and the media.
Since social media this has changed dramatically and we as societies now have to learn to be much more critical in our thinking. While social media elicits emotional reactions in us, to which we respond instantly and/or indicate that we like it or not, we need to use reason and perhaps pause before reacting instantly. Often we have the impression that something may not be true, a hunch. If so, take a break and check it out.
This brings me to an email I recently received from Dataprot. They claim to help people and organizations learn the ins and outs of another part of cyber hygiene.
They have published an interesting guide on how to find unknown phone numbers, since many of us have found ourselves in situations where we received calls from numbers we don’t recognize.
They give interesting advice.
Google any unknown phone number (mobile, landline, toll-free) before calling them back. Type all the details you have and use quotation marks to ensure that the term you are looking for is searched for as a phrase. You will get many results matching your search if it is a legit company. If you end up with too many links to 800notes, who-called.us, WhoCallsMe, or similar websites, it could indicate that the phone number belongs to a scammer.
Social networks have millions of active users who share information every day. Try searching for phone numbers on social media sites. Type the phone number into the site’s search bar and see what comes up. Knowing the number can help you track down the owner, provided they haven’t deleted it or set their profile to private.
There are also people search apps and websites (eg TruePeopleSearch). They can provide insight into much more detail than a person’s name and phone number. You can find addresses, relatives, associates, and even criminal records. You can also verify the information they have about you and, if necessary, take steps to modify or delete the information.
Many online white pages directories also search for reverse phone. However, tracking down the person behind a prepaid cell phone number can be tricky, as prepaid SIM cards can be purchased anywhere without providing any personal information. For privacy reasons, some countries, including Australia and the United Kingdom, have restricted reverse lookup of phone numbers.
Finding international numbers is trickier. There are websites that offer such services. Insert the number you are looking for with ‘+’ before the number. Unfortunately, you almost certainly end up with only the country or area code, not the caller’s name. Dataprot tested the Comfi international reverse phone, their research provided the country and network provider, as well as the city or location of the exchange. SearchYellowDirectory as they have also provided instructions and links on how to find the number in the country’s telephone directory.
People who are concerned about their security and want to hide their browsing history and protect their privacy when looking up people and their phone numbers, are advised to find a good VPN service before they start searching online. Dataprot also provides some details about these services.
Finally, research old phone numbers. Surprisingly Dataprot advises using Ancestry. It’s the largest genealogy society in the world, and its website is filled with genealogical records, history, and, of course, phone books.